Trust But Verify – What They Don’t Know About Federal Contracts Can Hurt You.

First published February 22, 2017

Do you know the difference between a BOA, BPA and GWAC? Understand how agencies leverage Purchase Orders versus Delivery and Task Orders? You’re far from alone if you don’t. However, if you have responsibility for consuming procurement data in the course of developing and implementing strategy to find and win federal contracts (and subcontracts) you might want to ensure you know what you’re looking at, for the sake of money, risk and time.

- Guy Timberlake, The Chief Visionary

I just read a great article that is spot-on for companies seeking a good or better position for upcoming opportunities under a certain type of contract vehicle. Unfortunately, the article co-mingles some important facts, is a little loose with important terminology, and makes assertions that ultimately diminish its value. In the end, what should and could be solid, actionable information becomes less so and quite possibly a short trip into a brick wall.

Here’s what I mean.

In its opening, the article cites “For the past 7 years, the total value of Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contracts has kept pace with or exceeded the value awarded to definitive contracts.”

Assuming those reading the article I’m referring to follow the advice of the writer and pursue more information in the Federal Procurement Data System Next Generation (FPDS-NG), they would have a hard time corroborating this information and putting to use the very sage nuggets regarding task orders. Why? In the FPDS-NG system and in government contracting, an IDIQ is a specific contractual instrument and a comparison of dollars obligated to “definitive contracts1” versus what is defined as an IDIQ in FPDS-NG will show total obligations of $1.08T to definitive contracts as compared to $700B for Indefinite Delivery Contracts (IDC) of the Indefinite Quantity type. This analysis based on FY12 through FY16 actions reported to FPDS-NG. By the way, it’s important to note there are 3 variations of IDC in FPDS-NG.

1 ‘Definitive Contract’ is a term used in FPDS-NG to describe reported contracts other than an indefinite delivery vehicle (IDV) such as BOA, BPA, FSS, GWAC and IDC



In order for this first statement to be more accurate, you would have to count all 3 types of IDCs to include Definite Quantity (IDDQ) and Requirements (IDR) but even then we come up short. This means we need to add in other IDV types to include FSS (the GSA and VA Federal Supply Schedules) and GWACs (Government-wide Acquisition Contracts from GSA, NASA and NIH). While the latter are IDIQ in structure, if you seek them out in FPDS-NG or any database worth its salt by using the term IDIQ, you will be disappointed.

The article goes on to say “Agencies issue definitive contacts to one company to provide a product or service for a specified price. In contrast, agencies issue IDIQ contracts to a multiple awardee pool, who bid on task orders (TOs) that also provide a product or service for a specific price.”

This last sentence feeds into the belief-system adopted by many. It effectively makes the statement that IDIQ contracts are primarily if not solely multiple award contracts, which is not true. Unlike the FSS and GWAC vehicles (that are exclusively multiple award), all three types of IDCs can be single award or multiple award. In fact, of the previously mentioned $700B in IDIQ spending during the last five completed fiscal years, only $281B of that was to multiple award IDIQs. Taking it further, of all IDC spending during this period, a total of $903B, more than half, $580B, was to single award IDCs.



The article continues to drive the point home that IDIQs are multiple award vehicles (only) and in an example they represent sample task order values for 3 different ‘IDIQ Vehicles.’ Those vehicles are ALLIANT, ALLIANT SB and CIO-SP3, better known as GWACs. Why not use that name since it’s the one used to describe these vehicles on the program pages hosted by the agencies? If you search FPDS-NG for these contracts and others like them, the very first action in the system is the award of an IDV Type called GWAC.what-you-dont-know-about-contracts-header

My point with all of this?

I believe articles like the one I’m referencing that have market and competitive intelligence value, should be clear in how they use terminology and make it easy for readers to match up to the data points they will find. In other words, be educational to a fault. This is especially true when referring readers to FPDS-NG. As I stated previously, anyone searching FPDS-NG based on how this article is written would engage in a fruitless and frustrating activity, at best.

By the way, the name of my article is taken from a class I teach online and in-person around the country. Feel free to check out the B2G Essentials e-Classroom for a description of ‘What You Don’t Know (About Codes and Contracts) Can Hurt You!


Guy Timberlake, The Chief Visionary | @theasbcguy | @govconguy | @govconchannel

"The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person doing it."


About Guy Timberlake

‘Go-To’ Guy Timberlake is an accomplished veteran of federal contracting with nearly 30 years of experience, knowledge and relationships acquired in support of civilian, defense and intelligence agency programs since Operation Desert Storm. He’s called ‘Edutainer’ for his ability to make mundane discussions about business essential topics (like finding and winning federal contracts and subcontracts!) interesting, and presenting them so they are practical and sticky. Most important is that Guy is a devoted husband, a proud father and loves pizza night with his family and friends. ‘Go-To-Guy’ is the nickname given to him by his defense customers in the 1990’s.

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